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Nam Center Colloquium Series | Mahan, Baekje, and the Rise of States in South Korea

Rory Walsh, Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Nam Center for Korean Studies, University of Michigan
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
4:30-6:00 PM
Room 120 Weiser Hall Map
Baekje, the first state-level society in South Korea, has long had its origins explained as the result of ‘influence’ of one kind or another, whether from China, the northern kingdom of Goguryeo, or even Japan. By exploring Baekje’s archaeological remains, however, we can clearly see that the kingdom’s social and economic organization has deep roots in local Mahan cultural traditions. The Mahan, a society or group of societies that has largely defied traditional classification, were politically complex but not centralized, and appear to have valued autonomy and alliance over the rigid structures of the state. Baekje began as a single Mahan polity and then expanded its territory out from the Han river, while the Mahan cultures further south maintained their way of life throughout the Hanseong Baekje period.

This talk presents new data on Mahan, Baekje, and the relationship between them through a geochemical analysis of their pottery. Pottery is the most common type of artifact found at sites, was used by members of every social class, and encodes a tremendous amount of information about the people who made it. The idea of ‘influence’ can be deconstructed into specific relics of real, long-distance material exchange, and put in the context of the daily life of large Mahan and Baekje settlements. Both archaeological cultures were cosmopolitan for their time, active in trade and diplomacy, but were also firmly locally situated and at the centers of their own universe.

Rory Walsh is a Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Nam Center for Korean Studies. Her research on ancient state formation in East Asia includes Three Kingdoms-era Korea and the Xia-Shang-Zhou transition in central China, using ceramic geochemistry and archaeobotany to investigate political economy and social structure. She received her PhD from the University of Oregon, and is currently working on a book based on her dissertation: “Ceramic Specialization and Exchange in Complex Societies: A Compositional Analysis of Pottery from Mahan and Baekje in Southwestern Korea.”
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Asia, History
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Nam Center for Korean Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures